PREVIEW: Kerry To Come Of Age In Christy Ring Cup Final

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Gavin O’Connor looks at the upcoming Kerry v Derry 2015 Christy Ring Cup Final, Croke Park, Saturday, 5:30pm…

KERRY hurling is at a crossroads. A win over Derry in the Christy Ring Cup Final will mean a return to championship hurling and further progress.

A defeat would shatter the belief that this side has built up over the past year. With a national audience tuning in to see what these Kerrymen with sticks are made of. This could be the making of the code in the county of football.

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The Kerry squad before the defeat of Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final.

The Kerry squad before the defeat of Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final. Photo by Mike O’Halloran

To their credit, TG4 have decided to show that the game does exists outside of the heartland of hurling. It makes sense too, the last two Christy Ring finals have been crackers.

Kerry eye up their third Christy Ring Cup final in a row, the two previous finals finished in defeat, against Down and Kildare. In both games Kerry were in control, but let the games slip when they looked like winning.

With Kerry 1/10 bookies favourites, another defeat in a final would put paid to the idea that this Kerry team could one day mix it with the bigger boys of the summer.

It’s been an almost flawless 18 months since Tipperary man, Eamonn Kelly, took the reins. Kerry hurlers are now giving a level of commitment that would match any team in the country and are duly reaping the rewards.

So far, two division 2A titles and promotion to 1b of the league have been achieved, but the all important goal that’s on offer in Croke Park this Saturday is the one they really want now.

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Kerry manager, Eamonn Kelly. Photo by Gavin O'Connor.

Kerry manager, Eamonn Kelly. Photo by Gavin O’Connor.

There is plenty of experience too, with old stalwarts, John ‘Tweak’ Griffin, Darren Dineen and John Egan leading by example when most needed.

Kerry and Derry played out a draw when they met back in February in the league. Our regular hurling analyst, Mike O’Halloran, remarked that  “winning becomes a habit and this team needs a win or two to regain the confidence they had last year”.

Since that that game, Kerry’s record is, 8 wins, 1 loss. That solitary defeat coming at the hands of Westmeath, a side that have since earned the right to play for Liam McCarthy through the Leinster preliminary round.

However, any disappointment from that defeat was wiped away when Kerry beat their midlands rivals in the division 2a final. Along with winning, revenge is another habit this side has been getting used to.

Against Kildare last weekend, the 36 point Newbridge massacre may not have produced any silver, but at least an old score was well and truly settled.

Looking at Derry, they have also reached the final through the front door, with wins over Mayo, London and Down.

Derry’s first two wins were low scoring affairs with the Ulster men winning by an average score of 1.5 points, but they, like Kerry, put up a comprehensive score in the semi-final against Down, a side Kerry struggled to beat in the first round.

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Action from Kerry v Derry in the Allianz National League Division 2A.

Action from Kerry v Derry in the Allianz National League Division 2A. Photo by Mike O’Halloran

Kerry’s main goal this year was to get to another Christy Ring final, not unlike Carlow or Westmeath before them, there is a sense that they have outgrown the competition and should be operating at a higher level.

Promotion to Division 1B was an incredible achievement, one very few would have predicted, but where Kerry really want to be is playing in the championship this time next year.

The results over the past 18 months have proven Kerry deserve to be playing at a higher level. In the two previous finals Kerry took the foot off the gas and paid the price, but there has been a sea-change.

The way in which Kerry drove at Kildare right to the end is a testament that they were now a team that was ruthless right to the final whistle.

Kerry are the better side, but it’s that change in mentality that should see them get over this hurdle and onto greater things in the future.

The Christy Ring Cup Final, Kerry v Derry will be shown live on TG4.

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